Hello and welcome to a new week of Foundations podcasts from the team here at STC Sheffield. My Name is Dave and my learned colleague James has passed me the baton as we journey through the next few chapters of Matthew’s Gospel. The passages over the last few weeks have been filled with parables and miracles as we follow Jesus around Judea and Galilee. This week we’re going to span a few topics and locations. There is one thread that I’m going to point out through the passages this week though. That is the generosity of God. We’ll unpack this as we go along but as we move through Matthew’s Gospel this week try and spot the places where we are given a glimpse into the generous heart of God.
Today’s passage is Matthew 15:21-28.
We’re in a location today not frequented very often in the Gospels, the coastal towns of Tyre and Sidon. If you were to look for them on a map of the places Jesus went to in His three year ministry you’d find them in the north west corner. Perhaps the Scottish highlands of the Holy Land. You’ll remember that Jesus has been drawing huge crowds and He hasn’t been afraid of causing a little friction with the religious leaders of the time. It’s possible that Jesus was choosing to lay low for a while. To not let things spiral to the end point of His ministry too soon. It could be that He’s ensuring He and His disciples don’t burn out and taking them on a well earned short break away from the crowds. Maybe it’s a combination of the two, but in any case, this is beyond the borders of Galilee into Phoenicia and so it’s of no surprise that whilst there are no crowds of Jewish people following Him, Jesus quickly encounters a Canaanite woman.
You might remember the Canaanites from Old Testament stories that you’ve heard. They were one of the people groups that inhabited the promised land that God led the Israelites into. The Israelites had to fight the Canaanites to claim this long promised land. It’s clear that they very much were not God’s chosen people, unlike the Jews. This then makes sense of why Jesus ignores the woman initially. She is not part of the plan. Jesus had come so that the whole world might know God, yes. But the plan was for that to happen first and foremost with, and then through, the Jewish nation. Jesus had to stick to this plan because that was what had been prophesied. But here we learn something about Jesus. He knows the plan. He knows the timeframe. Israel first, then the rest of the world. But He can’t just ignore this woman. When she answers Him and shows the faith that she has Jesus cannot turn her away. There is something in Him that means He chooses to minister to her and grant her request, healing her daughter instantly.
We all have plans don’t we? Plans for our day, plans for our jobs, plans for our lives. Some of us don’t like to admit it but our plans can become really important to us. Sometimes we have plans we believe are given by God as well. We might refer to these as a calling, a purpose or a vocation. Called to be a social worker, a mum, an entrepreneur. Plans are good. Jesus had a plan too. He was revealing it a little at a time to His closest disciples. What happens though when something comes up that is outside our plan? Sure, it’s right to sometimes ‘stay in our lane’. We can’t fix every problem in the world ourselves after all. But sometimes we do have to be willing to follow the example of Jesus and minister to the person in front of us. At the end of the day, for all the other callings and purposes we have in life, Jesus gave us two instructions that come above all others. To love God and to love those around us.
Father thank you for this story. A story that shows the generosity of Jesus to pause His plan for a few moments to minister to the person in front of Him. We say sorry for the times that we’re too busy with our own plans to help others. Help us today to have love for those around us. Amen.
READING: Matthew 15:21-28
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.’
Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, ‘Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.’
He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.’
The woman came and knelt before him. ‘Lord, help me!’ she said.
He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.’
‘Yes it is, Lord,’ she said. ‘Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’
Then Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment.